Living-space Experiments

I’ve found that I take great joy in experimenting with different ways to store and organize clothing and other household stuff. At the moment, I have relatively few clothes, and most of them fit into two milk crates. I use four red hooks to hang four categories of my most constantly-used clothing items: bras, underpants, tank tops, bottoms (including swim-skirt). And sometimes my drying-rack ends up getting used as a hanger.

At times of my life I have had a lot more clothes than this. At this time of my life, I find it more liberating to have not as many items. I am one of those people who found herself wearing 20 percent of her clothes 80 percent of the time. Particularly after moving to ultra-humid Florida. And so I adjusted accordingly by getting rid of clothes I wasn’t wearing.

Note, you do not have to be a “clothing minimalist” to live a low-footprint life. This just happens to be my version, at least in recent years. During one era of my life, I had tons of clothes, many of which really were more COSTUMES than clothes, and about 30 pairs of platform shoes! And this was while living in a 19-foot travel trailer in South Austin. (I built little shelves to showcase the shoes. The inside of my trailer, lined as it was with Indian silk scarves and such, looked like some sort of Bohemian genie bottle.)

The milk crates sit in a piece of furniture which I scrounged at curbside and dubbed my “clothing hutch”. My bedroom is a lot bigger and has much more clothing storage than I need. The closet is empty, as are the wicker chests. Once I find likeminded housemates to share this home with me in the long term, one of them will get this bedroom and I’ll probably sleep in my micro studio. For now, I’m enjoying my experiments with the large bedroom space.

The rose mesh curtains (fabric bought from a vintage thrift shop), plus the kimono which I use as a substitute for the missing door, add a touch of pretty that keeps the room from being too spartan for my tastes.

I first used the “clothing hutch” when I was renting a one-bedroom apartment and sharing it with a roommate. The roommate got the back bedroom, and I had a partitioned area in the living room. The hutch helped create the partition, and it was a real boon for space! Experimenting with the hutch has been fun. I loved my little “roomette” (see photos below). Note, you can’t see the hutch in these pics; it’s outside the photo. I just wanted to show you my cozy sleeping, working, and reading space. Very RV, or very NYC!

When I experiment with various living-space arrangements, sometimes I feel like a kid building a fort out of blankets and pillows. It’s a joyful, creative experience. I encourage you to try it! Tip: Using curb-scrounged or thrifted stuff takes the pressure off to be “designer perfect.” This pressure takes a lot of the fun out of having a home. Let’s get rid of the pressure! Have fun experimenting. And if you have kids, bring them into it! Kids have such creative ideas, and it’s a fun way to spend quality time together as a family.

I keep my room as tidy as possible because it helps me feel relaxed and peaceful in the room. I think of it as a nice subdued backdrop to the wild, jangly-colored notes of my art, writing, and life.

Further Reading: Check out this neat post I just found on makespace.com: 11 ways to divide a studio apartment into multiple rooms. I particularly like the “movie projector screen wall” — great for video nights! And another post to stir your creative juices, this one from Life Storage Blog: 10 clothes storage ideas when you have no closet.

Unexpected Flower

This morning. Hauling water out to the plants that need it most (at this point, endless days of no rain, it is a triage game). Feeling annoyed to no end as the water I’ve painstakingly carried runs off my sloped yard and onto the sidewalk. (I dig little trenches uphill of each plant but they fill in quickly so I have to stay on top of it.)

And just as I’m feeling sort of defeated, my eye catches on a spot of purple. A morning glory! A beautiful purple morning glory I did not plant! A pretty treat for my morning. And a reminder that even when my current efforts don’t seem to be accomplishing much, a sudden flower can pop up seemingly out of nowhere. Probably from someone else’s past effort. I take it as a reminder to have faith, to keep contributing my efforts to the general pool, and just enjoy that process and not get too stuck on outcomes.

Coincidentally, via Facebook’s “memory” feature, this morning on my Facebook feed I encountered “Bicycle Morning Glory,” a painting I did about five years ago and had forgotten about. I don’t remember who bought the original painting but presumably it is “blooming” in someone’s home or office. And I was pleasantly surprised to see this old forgotten creation “bloom” in my e-universe this morning.

Trash Revisited!

The average household in USAmerica throws away 4.5 pounds of garbage PER PERSON, per day! The Riot for Austerity target is 10% of that, or 0.45 pounds per person. The main things that add unnecessary weight to the trash are 1) food scraps and other organic matter; and 2) things that could be recycled.

Here’s a couple weeks worth of my trash. Since I compost and recycle, the trash is very lightweight, not to mention relatively odor-free and not drippy or gunky. I always say composting is a great way to avoid “gross” trash, smelly slimy trash can, etc., so it’s well worth doing even if you don’t garden. Since my trash isn’t slimy or gunky, I need no trash-can liners — but I do line the bottom of my can with used cardboard or newspaper just in case. The cardboard or paper liner itself gets composted once it becomes soggy (from the occasional stray drop of liquid) or starts to absorb odors.

The trash filled most of a 5-gallon can (top photo), but it was mostly bags and thin plastic wrap, so I was able to condense it all into this one bag, which originally served as packaging for frozen chicken nuggets (a freegan acquisition from a friend who purchased the product and ended up not wanting it).

Revisiting the other contents of the trash (middle photo), I realized that a couple of the plastic containers would be good trays for beading projects. And the potato-chip bag, turned inside-out, serves as a waterproof, solar-reflective container for a spare bicycle-tire tube which I keep in my bicycle basket (bottom photo). All in all, hardly any trash! In all, the trash I ended up putting out into the actual garbage collection this time weighed about a pound. For two weeks!

Trash is one of the categories where I typically find it very easy to have a low footprint. I don’t buy a lot of new stuff or packaged foods. Also, a lot of my “trash” is stuff I scrounged in the first place, as opposed to purchasing; for example, furniture or pots found at curbside, or clothing inherited from friends who were purging their closets. But there have been times in my life when I’ve generated higher volumes of trash, such as when moving to a new place, or doing a major decluttering project.

There are seven Riot for Austerity categories, and most folks find it easier to meet the targets, or make progress, in some categories than in others. And most of us find ourselves in temporary circumstances where our footprint goes higher than we wish. No worries; that’s one of the major benefits of having multiple categories!

The Riot categories are Gasoline; Electricity; Home Oil/Gas; Garbage; Water; Consumer Goods; and Food. You’ll be hearing more about these in future posts.

DEEP GREEN Book Featured in “Permaculture Women” Blog

I am deeply honored to be included in this post of “Best Permaculture Books Written by Women”.

In this post by Heather Jo Flores on permaculturewomen.com, I find myself in great company with some of my favorites, including the classic No Work Garden Book by Ruth Stout. Another book mentioned is Beyond the War on Invasive Species by Tao Orion, which “contains a broader view by taking into account that we need to understand why invasive species are existing in an ecosystem to make more ecological decisions that address the root of the problem.” I haven’t read this book yet but plan to because the prevailing approach, even within the permaculture community, to “invasive species” has always felt off-base to me.

The author of the post, Heather Jo Flores, also herself happens to be the author of one of the best permaculture books around. That book is Food Not Lawns: How To Turn Your Yard Into a Garden and Your Neighborhood Into a Community.

Heather, an artist, activist, and permaculture educator, has developed an extensive base of resources including permaculturewomen.com and the Permaculture Women’s Guild (which offers an online permaculture design certificate course taught by 40 women). She also offers her own series of online classes in the areas of emotional permaculture and practices for women authors.

Someone Is Listening

Don’t worry, someone is listening to you. Even when it seems like no one hears or cares, someone is listening. It could just be one person, but that person really needs to hear what you have to say, and you never know what great things may come of it.

So go ahead. Write that post; upload that video; post that photo; make that comment. Someone is listening.

Speaking as someone who’s many times been the reader, hearer, viewer of that post or comment or video that almost didn’t get made. And felt saved by it, and taken it and run with it.

Speak! Share your unique voice. Someone is listening.

Nursing Transplants Through the Hot Season

In my recent post of food-gardening tips, I advised beginners against “fighting nature,” by which I meant don’t try to grow food in the hardest season when you’re just starting out.

The same applies to the part of your garden that you’re cultivating for purposes other than food (such as wildlife habitat; flowers for pollinators; shrubs for privacy and blocking out streetlights).

With my ever-alert scrounger’s eye, I’ve been finding various shrubs and plants that people have left at curbside. Also, friends have been giving me surplus plants they don’t want. Lots of free plants — great! But I shouldn’t have tried to plant them in the yard during the hottest driest time. If I had it to do over again, the curb-scrounged podocarpus shrubs pictured in the top photo would have spent a few weeks being babied in pots on my shaded patio. Instead, I made the mistake of planting them in the harsh cruel world of the yard during what has turned out to be a very hot dry spell. Carrying water to those shrubs and to my other yard transplants each day has turned out to be a major hassle! Also it uses an awful lot of water, 20 or 30 gallons a day. (By the way, although the podocarpus look dead, one of my super-horticulture-savvy friends tells me they’ll be fine.)

Now I’m learning from my mistake. The second pic shows some plants that a friend invited me to dig up from her yard today. I’m babying them on the patio til the weather gets a bit less harsh. Snuggled up together in pots, they won’t need as much water.

Can you spot a subtle-but-significant difference between the second photo and the third?

Answer: In photo #3, I have removed the label sticker from the plastic tub! Yes, I’m that fussy, at least in certain ways — I really notice the difference! I’m very much a practitioner of the KonMari aesthetic, long before I had heard of Marie Kondo and read her books on decluttering. I remove the labels from dish liquid and other bottled household products (the few I use), and was amazed to find that someone else did that too.

Five Subscribers

As I was checking a new post, I happened to notice that this blog has five subscribers. Five is a nice number, in the same family as three or seven for me. Numbers I’ve always felt an affinity for.

I’m amazed that there are bloggers and YouTubers and others out there with five hundred or five thousand or five million viewers. It just blows my mind. How does anyone even get there?

But right now, I don’t care about the answer to that question. Five subscribers is huge to me. It’s a group of people; an audience. I feel an obligation to provide quality and substance. Five. A number of readers I can feel. Five pairs of eyes. Five minds. Connected through this blog and (presumably) an interest in the topic.

As a kid, starting when I was maybe 12 years old, I loved to sit in my room at night and listen to the radio. (King Biscuit Flour Hour; Dr. Demento — for those seeking historic context.) Sometimes I’d be reading at the same time; more often drawing or writing.

On summer nights especially, the whole night felt alive. I felt this connection between the DJ, the other listeners, whoever they were and however many — thousands? millions? — and myself. Though I didn’t think of it consciously, looking back I realize I always felt somehow that we formed a living pulsing net, stretched across the USA (though it was FM radio and that’d be impossible).

My room, by the way, was pure 1976 tween/teen girl. Posters of gymnasts: Olga Korbut! Nadia Comaneci! Artwork and magazine clippings tacked to the cork bulletin board on my closet door. Blacklight fuzzy velvet poster of a puma crouched on a tree limb. And of course an Elton John poster. My favorite album was Captain Fantastic. In case you were curious!

On summer nights especially for some reason, the ceiling of my room seemed like an artificial barrier, visual only. My mind was fully merged with the sky and stars and wind and the music on the radio. Radio is magic like that; I still feel that way.

And now here we are in the age of blogging, videoing, TED-talking. People who were once just folks like you and me, suddenly attract audiences of thousands or millions in a flash. A thousand likes; a million views; “It went viral”!

And yet, for me, having five subscribers to this blog is huge. Huge! Maybe someday it’ll be 10. 20. Maybe even a hundred or a thousand or more, who knows. But right now I don’t care about that; I am simply humbled and thrilled and amazed to have FIVE readers who actually care enough to subscribe. Anonymous, known in number only, we are nonetheless all connected. By our similarities, sure, but also by our differences. Like the radio listeners on some summer night 40 years ago, when the world was younger and the possibilities seemed to widen out forever.

Though I get discouraged by things sometimes, and I’m sure you do too, in my heart I still feel that the possibilities widen out forever. And that the world can be as young as we make it. I’m here for you guys. My five subscribers. Literally, I’m here for you! Thank you and God/dess bless you on our journey.